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Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I was not going to speak until the next group of amendments was called, but I think it is appropriate that I should speak now to Amendment No. 20A.

I thank the Minister for her remarks about workforce development. She is right that during the Bill's progress through the House we pressed amendments for workforce development to be included within the remit of the Bill and on the face of the Bill. I am delighted to see that the amendments have now been included. Amendment No. 20 to Clause 16 puts in place precisely what we seek.

Behind the scenes, Mr Chris Humphries, who has been the chairman of the National Skills Task Force, has been talking at some length to the Minister and has had some influence in these matters. The final report of the task force was published recently and expresses concern about the overall development of skills in this country. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the higher education sector is included in the plans for workforce development.

This Bill focuses very largely on post-16 training and education which does not lead to degree level qualifications. But increasingly the distinction between further education, vocational qualifications and degree-type qualifications is becoming untenable. If we look to the future, we may see degrees increasingly put together on what I call a "mix-and-match" basis, particularly for mature students.

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Distance learning through the Open University and through the Internet will become an increasingly important part of further and higher education.

But we also know from our experience with the Open University that teaching within a small tutorial group is very important. Therefore, we will see degrees taken sometimes through Open University-type distance learning, sometimes through attending the local further education college and sometimes through attending the local higher education institution, with different parts of the degree being put together on a credit unit basis. I suspect that this is the way we shall see many degrees coming together in the future, particularly for mature students. But even without looking to the future, the higher education sector plays a vital role in training within the knowledge-based economy. We need to look to the model in the United States, where the universities are very much integrated into the local community. They work with their local community colleges and often form growth points within their local economies, both in terms of spinning off innovative new firms and in terms of training the high-quality workers for the high value added jobs. We feel that higher education must be integrated into the functions of the local learning and skills councils. We have put forward the amendment for that purpose.

3.30 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I shall respond to the points made by noble Lords opposite and by my noble friend Lady David and then come back to the amendment standing in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, for what he said. I am grateful, too, to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. He said that it was rather late for the amendments to come before the House. However, when the Bill was going through the House we said that we would make amendments in another place to improve the Bill. I am glad that he recognised that the amendments are improvements. I hope that he is wrong in his pessimism about how the National Assembly will operate in relation to his view that regional structures are not prescriptive enough. As to the noble Lord's point about protocols, it is up to him to raise the question of a possible debate in the House at a later date.

Perhaps I may respond to my noble friend Lady David. At this stage I am not able to make any commitment about there being an entitlement to adult learning. However, I shall certainly take away her suggestion, which may in the longer term be desirable.

I should like to respond to what the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said about her Amendment No. 20A. Both Clause 16 and our government amendment to it are expressed in deliberately broad terms. The LSC will work with a wide range of partners and we would certainly expect that to be reflected in its strategy. That there is no reference to higher education institutions in the clause should not be a surprise, given that there is no reference to any of what will be the LSC's key partners. But that does not mean that the HE sector

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will have no role in relation to the LSC's overall remit or its workforce development activities in particular; very far from it.

We entirely recognise that higher education has an important role to play in the education and training of our workforce, not least because it offers an important progression route for those moving on from further education and work-based learning. In particular, we shall expect the LSC to continue the good work of TECs in encouraging the progression from modern apprenticeships to foundation degrees and vocational honours degrees in subjects such as engineering. It is only by addressing the skills deficit at the intermediate skills level that we can boost the supply of technicians and associated professionals, including at the higher levels, in order to increase our national competitiveness in the development of a knowledge economy. All this means that there must and there will be a strong and productive relationship between the LSC and the HE sector.

That is why I am glad to say that the appointments to the LSC at both national and local level which we have announced include individuals with a strong interest in, and experience of, higher education. The national chair, Bryan Sanderson, is vice-chair of the court of governors of the LSE. His chief executive, John Harwood, is a member of the court of Oxford Brookes University. Of the 36 local chairs so far announced, six have been or remain involved with the HE sector in one capacity or another.

On top of this, and as we have already set out, the national LSC will invite to its meetings the HEFCE chief executive. That will further ensure that a powerful HE voice is present at the heart of the LSC's decision making. The national LSC will also draw together authoritative advice on skills supply and demand by convening, with the Higher Education Funding Council for England and other agencies, an advisory group of leading experts in the field of skills research and information.

Local learning partnerships will also be important as they provide a forum in which providers, including higher education institutions, can work together to fill gaps and improve quality. Universities and colleges are already involved in some 67 per cent of partnerships.

Finally, there will also be important collaborative work involving both sectors at the level of delivery. When illustrating this point in another place, my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State mentioned the York Progression Partnership initiative which provides enhanced support to targeted HE and FE students in their first term and trains a team of "role model" students to act as mentors to FE students. He also referred to the Birmingham project which aims to open up access for Muslim women to higher education opportunities within their local communities, including through local FE colleges. We want more work of this kind, not less.

With those assurances, I hope that the noble Baroness will in due course withdraw her amendment and will join me and others in supporting the Commons amendments. I beg to move.

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On Question, Motion agreed to.


13 Clause 10, page 6, line 6, after ("promote") insert ("--
14 Page 6, line 7, at end insert--
("(b) the making of arrangements which qualify under section (Qualifying arrangements).")
15 Page 6, line 8, at end insert--
("( ) may be specified as a body with which arrangements under section (Qualifying arrangements) may be made;
( ) may be designated by the Secretary of State under section (Qualifying arrangements: further provision)(1) or (3) and may act in accordance with such a designation;")

Lord Bach: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 13 to 15. In moving these amendments, I shall speak also to Commons Amendments Nos. 42 to 44 and 128 to 135. This group of amendments can be considered in two parts. First, Amendments Nos. 129 and 131 provide for a new model for the provision of individual learning accounts. In this set, I include Amendments Nos. 13 to 15, 42 to 44 and 132 and 133, which are consequential on this new model.

Amendment No. 129 provides for administrative arrangements by which individuals can simply register as account holders with a central provider--rather like a membership scheme. This new approach follows extensive market research which pointed up the benefits and attractions of more flexible arrangements. Clause 96, which provides for the original model based on dedicated savings accounts, is being retained against possible future development as a learning account option. Amendment No. 131 inserts a new clause which enables the Secretary of State to contract with the central provider and to arrange for the LSC to manage the contract on his behalf, though that is not something we envisage happening before April 2002.

The other amendments I have already listed in connection with this new model make consequential changes to the LSC and CETW's powers in respect of learning accounts and to the clause which governs the payment of learning account grants. The remaining amendments in this group are concerned with territorial matters in relation to learning accounts and follow two principles: that responsibility for policy and implementation should be dealt with on a devolved basis; and that the national framework should be implemented as rapidly as possible in a co-ordinated manner across the UK.

Amendments Nos. 130 and 135, together with the second half of Amendment No. 131, give Northern Ireland regulation-making powers for the devolved elements of the learning account legislative package. With the resumption of devolution, the Assembly would normally prepare its own legislation for these elements, just as Scottish Ministers have done. However, in the interests of ensuring that implementation in Northern Ireland does not lag behind that in the rest of the UK, we propose that the

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Bill makes direct provision for that. The relevant committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly has approved the approach.

Amendment No. 128 devolves to Scottish Ministers the regulation-making powers under Clause 96 which, as it deals with financial services and therefore reserved matters, covers Scotland. We and the Scottish Ministers believe that they should make their own regulations under this clause, just as they are responsible for the other learning accountlegislation for Scotland. Making provision directly in the Bill ensures that implementation in Scotland can progress to the timetable for the rest of the UK. The Scottish Parliament has approved this approach.

Amendment No. 134 removes the "Welsh" subsection of Clause 97. Amendment No. 183, which we will discuss in due course, makes provision for the whole of Part V of the Bill in respect of Wales.

There are other amendments of a technical and consequential nature with which I have not dealt. If noble Lords want explanations of them, I shall be happy to oblige.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 13 to 15.--(Lord Bach.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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